Vernon Wells

The Featured Presentation

Lee Kholafai


This week we’re taking an extended look at the new movie “Glass Jaw,” chatting with the creative minds responsible for bringing the gritty drama to life. Arriving in select theaters and on digital HD today, the film is a story of redemption set in the world of boxing and stars Lee Kholafai, Korrina Rico, Jon Gries, Mark Rolston, Jaime Camil, Malcolm David Kelley, Vernon Wells and Steven Williams.

Next up we’re chatting with Lee Kholafai to discuss the seven year journey he made to ensure that the film become a reality, why it takes teamwork to make the dream work, and the reason you can’t have a glass jaw in Hollywood.

TrunkSpace: From what we have read, you stared down a lot of obstacles in order to see “Glass Jaw” become a reality. How big of an accomplishment was it to call wrap on the film and how much of your life have you invested in it from conception to completion?
Kholafai: Oh man, if you only knew. Making a film is harder than I ever imagined. I’ve easily invested seven years of my life into “Glass Jaw,” if not more. I am still working on “Glass Jaw” even, so who knows what the total number might be. (Laughter)

First of all, writing it took a while. Each time, I thought we had a final copy, we would receive notes – even notes received the day before shooting. (Laughter) Then there was the task of raising money. I hate asking for money honestly, so that was really hard. Then dealing with lawyers, another learning step there as well. Then pre-production was a monster. Then production I was so mentally and physically exhausted, that I don’t think I slept at all. My mind was in a million places, which is the one thing I regret. I wish I could have just shown up on set as an actor but I had a lot of responsibility since I was the hub of information and if anything went wrong, the fingers would point at me so the pressure was on. Not to mention we ran out of money a couple of times during production. I never told anyone but I was literally raising funds for the film while shooting. Long story short, I ended up getting a lot of credit cards and maxing them all out. Then came the post, which was more complex than I imagined. VFX was a beast that we had no idea about. Then came selling the film. Everyone thought “Glass Jaw” was too commercial for the festivals so we had to deal with that and now we are in the marketing stages, which is pretty fun.

So yeah, a lot of long nights and early mornings with the belief that one day it would all make sense.

TrunkSpace: We would imagine there are a lot of parallels between boxing and filmmaking, especially on the “never give up” front. How much of seeing your dream become a reality has been a bare-knuckle, take-no-prisoners brawl, at least from an emotional standpoint?
Kholafai: Great question. It’s every similar, honestly. First of all, everyone doubts you. Secondly, you can’t take no for an answer and literally have to fight your way through every obstacle and stand up right away if anyone puts you down. I really love the quote, “Winners never quit, quitters never win.” That quote alone helped me because I thought, “How could I lose if I never give up?” Consistency, focus, and action is how, honestly, “Glass Jaw” was made. Also respecting the team. There are so many components to “Glass Jaw” and I am more than honored to have the great team that we had. Teamwork for the dream work, baby!

TrunkSpace: There is a rich history of inspirational sports stories that have found their way to film. What makes “Glass Jaw” unique, but at the same time, still delivers on that inspirational vibe that will make us all want to go down into the basement and hit the dusty, old punching bag a few rounds?
Kholafai: Well, the story of “Glass Jaw” is simply to never give up. Times get hard. People want to give up sometimes. Hopefully after watching “Glass Jaw” they’ll be inspired and see that, no matter what, if you keep fighting the good fight and never give up that eventually you will win.

TrunkSpace: Beyond starring in the film, you also wrote and produced. Was the experience of wearing so many hats a bit like a high where, there’s ups and downs, and when it wears off, you instantly want to go out and do it again – in this case, run out and make another film?
Kholafai: That was honestly the hardest part. My head was in so many places from wearing so many hats. I wish I could have just shown up as actor and focused on my scenes. As I mentioned before, we ran out of money a couple times, so that was stressful not knowing how I would be able to afford the next day or be shut down. We had locations cancel on us last minute and also I was the mediator for everyone to make sure everyone got along, and so on. It was so mentally exhausting and I didn’t sleep at all. The responsibility was heavy because if anything went wrong, I was the one to blame. I don’t ever want to wear that many hats again. I did it because of budget constraints, but I learned my lesson. I am thankful for the learning process I have now though because I can’t be taken advantage of due to my experience from doing it. The dream scenario would be able to create content, get a good team together, and have enough money in the budget where I can just show up as an actor and focus on my scenes for the day rather than everything else that could go wrong that a producer has to deal with.

TrunkSpace: Did producer Lee and actor Lee ever butt heads in terms of what one knew was possible to accomplish and what one hoped was possible to accomplish? How do you find the middle ground between the creative wants and the day-to-day needs?
Kholafai: Honestly, they were both on the same page. I am a dreamer and I go for the stars always. I will say this, “Glass Jaw” turned out better than I ever imagined. It all started with this crazy idea of wanting to make a movie and, seeing it done and a reality is still unbelievable to me. It still probably will not really hit me until it hits theaters on October 26th. I will say, I was realistic in an indie budget. I knew I didn’t have the money to do transformers, etc., so I tried to make the script as relatable and real as possible.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the film?
Kholafai: To be honest, the team we had come on board that gave “Glass Jaw” their best. I am also forever thankful to our investors because without them “Glass Jaw” would still just be an idea in my head.

TrunkSpace: Do you have a personal history/tie to the sport of boxing? Was there a personal interest/investment in the story itself?
Kholafai: I love boxing but I don’t have much of a history with it professionally. I still box often and it does wonders as my stress relief on frustrating days. I learned to respect boxing more as well because honestly, it’s a very disciplined sport. The stamina you have to have is insane. Also there is something awesome about being in a ring and seeing what you are made of. I’ve never fought professionally but I think a real fight would be cool to do one day.

TrunkSpace: You started your career as a model. Was it difficult to transition into the world of acting and convince people that you were an actor and not “a model who wants to be an actor?”
Kholafai: That’s another hard part. People don’t really take models seriously. I know people will use it against me but I suppose I just will have to keep proving myself and pushing forward.

TrunkSpace: When it comes to being an actor in this day and age, what’s more difficult – is it finding that first big break or maintaining a career that is built on longevity?
Kholafai: I think both can be difficult. Maybe the big break since it’s more sought after as difficulty goes. But you can get your big break and have not much happen after and you can have longevity but not the career you hoped for. I really respect Stallone’s career. He has the best of both worlds. He makes hit movies and has been around longer than most.

TrunkSpace: We know this is a super general question, but what’s next? What’s that next creative high you’re going to chase?
Kholafai: I thought you would never ask! (Laughter) I am actually working on a film called “Greed” now. We are perfecting the script and then will start production soon. Its message is that as fast you make it, you can lose it. So don’t be cocky, or arrogant. Always be thankful and help others.

If you haven’t noticed, I want to make films that deliver a good message and hopefully help society in some sort of way.

Glass Jaw” arrives in select theaters and on digital HD today.

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The Featured Presentation

Korrina Rico


This week we’re taking an extended look at the new movie “Glass Jaw,” chatting with the creative minds responsible for bringing the gritty drama to life. Arriving in select theaters and digital HD tomorrow, the film is a story of redemption set in the world of boxing and stars Lee Kholafai, Korrina Rico, Jon Gries, Mark Rolston, Jaime Camil, Malcolm David Kelley, Vernon Wells and Steven Williams.

Next up we’re chatting with Korrina Rico to discuss the difficulties of traversing Hollywood as an actor, why perseverance is everything, and how they finished the film even after running out of money during the second week of production.

TrunkSpace: If we sat down with 10-year-old Korrina and said, “Some day you’re going to be writing, producing and starring in a feature film set in the word of boxing,” what would she say?
Rico: She would tell you that it’s not far-fetched. I was inspired by filmmaking since as early as I can remember. At that age we were struggling so it would have been some tears of joy because of the emotional battles I had been going through. I’ve always been inspired in business from my parents who are both self-made that came from nothing. Being Mexican, the boxing world has always been a part of my life. It was a big deal for us and I remember as a child always going with my parents to boxing viewing parties and they would bet on which round and on a specific boxer. Boxing is such an exhilarating sport and it was easy to identify with because these fighters are fighting for their life, to get out of their current situation, to bring better opportunities and fighting for their countries. It’s important to make your mark in this world and inspire any way that you can. You can make it out of any rut of a situation as long as you have the will to fight for it.

TrunkSpace: There are a lot of messages to be uncovered when sitting down to watch “Glass Jaw,” but one of the easiest ones to identity is a never-give-up mentality. Have you applied that same POV to your own career – a sense of personal perseverance – that has gotten you to where you are today?
Rico: Absolutely. In Hollywood, it’s hard. You have everything against you. Auditioning is the worst. It’s literally like waking up every day to go for a job interview. We deal with rejection on a daily basis and that does some mental torture to your soul. You start questioning your value, many question their morals and do other things to get jobs that was just out of the question for me morally. However, I’ve always kept going. Perseverance is everything. It’s important to balance your life with people that will inspire and lift you up also. Believe in yourself and know nothing of quality is made over night.

TrunkSpace: What is the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome to be standing here today talking about a film that you helped give life to?
Rico: Dealing with the politics of the industry. It’s all about who you know and what people run which film festivals, etc. You have to know someone to get in, so don’t waste your money. What “stars” or who is relevant or “that person isn’t relevant anymore” or “this person is worth this much in this country.” It’s all crap. It’s not about the best actor that busted their ass for the job. It is a business. So on the positive side, as an actor, I used to be so insecure that I wouldn’t get certain parts. But as a producer, now I understand why I didn’t get those parts. Also, friends getting upset I didn’t put them in my film – as a producer, I now understand it’s not that easy. Dealing with unions and budgets, it’s a whole ordeal. I felt bad because if I’m going to feed someone, I’m always going to want to feed my team.

TrunkSpace: As someone who was involved in nearly every aspect of the production, did that give you intimate knowledge and a personal closeness to the character Dana that you couldn’t have achieved if you just stepped on the set to play her? Were you already inhabiting her before you ever had to on-camera?
Rico: In many ways, yes. Because we wrote it and were able to develop the characters, I identified with Dana in many ways. We all struggle, we are all human, we are all flawed and we make mistakes. It’s important to learn from them and always stay true to yourself.

TrunkSpace: We asked Lee this as well, but did producer Korrina and actress Korrina ever butt heads in terms of what one knew was possible to accomplish and what one hoped was possible to accomplish? How do you find the middle ground between the creative wants and the day-to-day needs?
Rico: Yes, we butt heads because you battle the business aspect versus the creative aspect. Creatively speaking, I may envision a certain idea or location, etc., and then the producer side would say battle because of budget or time, etc.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the film?
Rico: I am so proud of what we were able to create. The resources we were able to pull off being so green to production. We were surrounded with such professionals. God was really on our side in guiding us the entire way, placing such talented artists in our hands. The entire crew and cast. The flow of the film was like a family and everyone was so happy to be on set, so the energy was immensely gratifying.

TrunkSpace: We talked about personal obstacles you have faced, but what was the biggest hurdle you had to overcome to see “Glass Jaw” through to the end? Was there ever a moment where you felt it wouldn’t get made?
Rico: Yes! Week 2, we ran out of money. All odds were against us. We went through every single week having to re-raise money until the end. We prayed and worked so hard. It took a toll on us. One second we were acting then as soon as they cut we would be on the phone trying to get more funds to get us onto the next week. No one ever knew because we never wanted the energy on set to be affected. We knew in our hearts we could get it done, and again, not to be preaching, but when a higher power is with you, it’s an undeniable force that has your back. We never thought negative, which got us to the finish line.

TrunkSpace: Do you feel like the film has become a calling card for what you’re capable of both in front of the camera and behind it?
Rico: Absolutely. I’m staring to get emotional just reliving the moments. This film being our first, is our baby. We learned so much that there is no film school to teach you. Making a film is so hard. So, so, so hard. “Glass Jaw” set the tone of the next wave of our films, which will all be great, but with more resources and higher budgets, there’s only greatness that can come from the caliber of what we can achieve.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question! If you could jump ahead a decade and get a glimpse of what your career looks like 10 years from now, would you take that journey?
Rico: I’m on the way! 10 years goes by so fast. So there is a lot to do. We plan to branch into distribution in addition to our film production 117 Eleven Seven Productions. We have a slate of films we are working on and really looking forward to it. We just pray everyone is able to be inspired by “Glass Jaw,” identify with the characters and take from it that no matter your circumstances, you have the power to go against the odds and pave the way for your future.

Glass Jaw” arrives in select theaters and on digital HD this Friday.

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The Featured Presentation

Malcolm David Kelley


This week we’re taking an extended look at the new movie “Glass Jaw,” chatting with the creative minds responsible for bringing the gritty drama to life. Arriving in select theaters and digital HD on Friday, the film is a story of redemption set in the world of boxing and stars Lee Kholafai, Korrina Rico, Jon Gries, Mark Rolston, Jaime Camil, Malcolm David Kelley, Vernon Wells and Steven Williams.

Next up we’re chatting with Malcolm David Kelley to discuss his love for boxing, getting to work alongside a childhood idol, and why his music and acting fall under the same creative umbrella.

TrunkSpace: “Glass Jaw” is not the first independent project you’ve worked on. As an actor, is there a bit of a leap of faith involved with signing on to work on an indie, not knowing when (or even if) a particular film will see the light of day?
Malcolm David Kelley: Yes, there is always a gamble, so to say, but I think it’s also needed for filmmakers coming to get their vision across with a great story, work the festivals and find a partner. It works both ways – investors or studios want a project done and the up-and-coming want to get their project out. Then comes it being taken to theaters and it’s a dope process to learn and continue to execute.

TrunkSpace: What was it about “Glass Jaw” and the team behind it that gave you the confidence to jump into the work and take on the character Dennis?
Malcolm David Kelley: My dad and I love boxing and boxing movies. I also appreciated the character Dennis because he wanted to help, genuinely, and that’s like me, so I liked that characteristic and knew I could do that. I then found out one of my fav rappers growing up, Lil Boosie, was attached, so I was also excited. A dope experience.

TrunkSpace: You already touched on this a bit, but what was it about Dennis and his layers that interested you? What were you most excited to inhabit when it came to his personality?
Malcolm David Kelley: As I stated previously, I appreciated how sincere and how generous he was. Helping to see how people in his life have been, no matter if they haven’t been there the whole time, is one of the main things I liked about him because that’s a lot like me.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the work you did in “Glass Jaw?”
Malcolm David Kelley: Being that presence and working on the project – it being an indie and that people get to enjoy it in theaters. I love boxing movies – the stunt set ups – this was fun.

TrunkSpace: People love sports films, especially those that inspire us and give us that “we can accomplish anything” high. In your opinion, how does “Glass Jaw” stack up against some of the greats from the genre?
Malcolm David Kelley: I think knowing, on an indie, they achieved a lot with telling a story about not giving up. I think that’s a universal message that will connect with anyone who sees the film, so I think that’s the most important thing.

TrunkSpace: Outside of acting, you’re also a part of the pop duo MKTO. Do you view your work in music as a separate career or do they both fall under one larger creative umbrella?
Malcolm David Kelley: Appreciate you mention the music. That’s why I love how I kind of had music under wraps until I can back into the acting and then I get to promote both. It’s what I have always wanted. In my world, they all fall together under the entertainment umbrella. Both are run different, but they both open doors to do other things. Movies have music to set the mood and music uses videos to tell a story, so they go hand in hand to me. Music is a lot faster consumption to the consumer, where with a film it will take a year to come out, but both can move people emotionally, which I love.

TrunkSpace: Both the business side of music as well as film/TV continues to evolve, especially on the consumption side. Which world is more difficult to navigate in 2018?
Malcolm David Kelley: I would say film/TV would be a little more difficult to navigate, but, you have social media platforms to build up notoriety. For an artist coming up, they just need to use YouTube and Instagram to build up their following and someone will see them if they grind long enough and tour on their own and have the ups when dealing with a label. With an aspiring actor using the Insta Stories, that’s a dope way to build up your following. Studios are looking at numbers on IG, which has a say in the booking of a role. They have to be ready for the opportunity and work two times harder than the next actor, but opportunity is for everybody and everybody has their own path. They just have to stay focused.

TrunkSpace: You’ve had some incredible costars over the course of your career. Who have you learned the most from, even just by osmosis, that you still apply to your work today?
Malcolm David Kelley: I learn from every situation I have been a part of, from “Lost,” to just absorbing all the knowledge from all my castmates who were older than me, to working with Denzel (Washington). Preparation is key. Filming “Detroit,” I learned about about where acting is today and all of my castmates in that film were amazing. I learn from performing on stage as well.

TrunkSpace: What’s been the biggest highlight of your career thus far – that “pinch me” moment that makes all of the hard work over the years worth it?
Malcolm David Kelley: Man, it’s hard to name one. I also have a lot more on my bucket list I want to accomplish and there are things I wish I had done, so I have to get theses thing on my bucket list accomplished. I’m so mad I didn’t get a chance to meet or work with Michael Jackson or Tupac. Loved working with Denzel, even though I was so young. Forever proud of “Lost” and “You Got Served.” to the music with gold and platinum plaques. A lot more I will do, like directing, writing films and solo music, to give to the world in this lifetime.

Appreciate the time. Go see “Glass Jaw” and follow my socials: IG and Twitter @therealmalcolm.

Glass Jaw” arrives in select theaters and on digital HD this Friday.

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